Tag Archives: almond

Wine-Poached Pear Frangipane Tart

Almonds remind me of the first sentence in one of my favorite books, “Love in the Time of Cholera.”

It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love.

The almonds used in this French frangipane tart are not bitter – rather, they are richly sweet ground into the pillowy filling that holds my tender wine-poached pear slices.

Adapted from Martha Stewart, of course, this flower-like tart is a definite crowd-pleaser. I omitted the rum simply because I had none, but a dash of alcohol never hurt anyone…

Pate Sucree (crust)

Ingredients (makes 2 crusts – you’ll need one; freeze the other):

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup ice water, plus more if needed
Pulse flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor to combine. Add butter; process until mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10 seconds. Add yolks; pulse. With machine running, add ice water in a slow, steady stream through feed tube until dough just holds together (no longer than 20 seconds). Divide in half; shape each into a rectangle. Wrap in plastic. Refrigerate at least 2 hours (up to 2 days).
White Wine Poached Pears
  • 2 cups white wine
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 vanilla bean, split
  • 4 firm but ripe pears, stem on, peeled

Combine wine, 4 cups water, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, cinnamon stick, and vanilla bean in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, and cook for 5 minutes. Add pears, reduce to simmer, and cook until the pears are tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, 20 to 30 minutes. Cool pears in poaching liquid.

Wine-Poached Pear Frangipane Tart


  • 1 pate sucree
  • 4 wine-poached pears
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted, room-temperature butter, plus more for tart tin
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 3/4 cup blanched almonds
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1/2 cup fig jam, for glaze

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly butter a 10-inch tart tin with a removable bottom. Set aside. Lightly dust a clean work surface with flour, and roll pastry dough (pate sucree) into a circle with a 14-inch diameter. Fit circle into prepared tin, being careful not to stretch dough too thin. Transfer to freezer until firm, about 15 minutes. In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, finely grind almonds. Set aside.

Make the frangipane: Combine butter and sugar in bowl of an electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment (I used a hand mixer). Beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add ground almonds, egg, almond extract, and flour, and beat until smooth. Spread evenly into chilled tart shell and refrigerate while preparing pears.

Remove cooled poached pears from liquid and cut each in half lengthwise, removing core and stem. Place each half, cut side down, on a cutting board and cut crosswise into thin slices. Arrange sliced pear halves on frangipane around edge of tart, leaving space between each half. Bake until the tart shell is golden brown and the frangipane is puffed and brown, 40 to 45 minutes.

While the tart is baking, melt jam with 1 tablespoon water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Brush warm-from-the-oven pears with apricot-rum glaze.

Cool tart to room temperature before slicing.

Delicious! The pears themselves smell so wonderful while poaching – the wonderful combination of lemon, cinnamon and vanilla. Then the almond frangipane baking with that rich, buttery crust…ahhhh.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo


Almond-scented cream cheese sugar cookies

I don’t know anybody who doesn’t crave a certain nostalgic sweet this time of year. My mom always turns Martha Stewart during the holidays, but of all her confections, these festive cookies remain my favorite, year after year.

I never knew why I liked them so much until I grew up and realized that it was the addition of cream cheese in the dough. Then I got even older, and wanted to keep the tradition alive thousands of miles from home, finding that almond extract plus vanilla extract provides the unique flavor.

And there was one other thing: margarine. And no salt. When questioned, my mother said she found that butter makes the cookies too crumbly for the cut-outs, and margarine and cream cheese have all the salt you’ll need. So, okay, I trusted her.

The result was a soft and creamy dough that produced perfect cookie cut-outs, ready for a little sugar-crystal sparkle. This is a truly unique and wonderful twist on the classic Christmas sugar cookie. I dare you to dislike it!

Almond-scented cream cheese sugar cookies


  • 3.5 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 c. margarine, softened
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder. Set aside.

In a large bowl or your mixer, beat margarine and cream cheese until combined. Add sugar and beat until fluffy. Add egg, vanilla and almond extracts; beat well. Gradually add flour mixture, beating well after each addition. Chill for at least 2 hours or overnight (or make ahead and freeze).

Preheat oven to 375. On a floured work surface, roll out the dough to as thin as you like. Maybe a quarter inch? Thicker will be chewier. Use cookie cutters to cut shapes and place on a nongreased cookie sheet. These won’t spread much, so you can really fit a bunch. Chill the dough in between batches, so it doesn’t get too soft.

Sprinkle the cookies with colored sugar, or any decorations you like (or use frosting when baked and cooled!).

Bake for 6-8 minutes until just lightly browned at the edges – they will still be quite white. Let cool on pan for 2 minutes, then remove to cooling rack to finish.

Go on, create your own Christmas cookie tradition with the loved ones in your life. I know I’ve been making all sorts of new traditions this year!

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Orange-scented Madeleines

Starbucks used to sell these spongy tea cookies and I absolutely loved them. In fact, I’ve always wanted to make them since I discovered them at The Bucks. It was just a matter of buying that special shell-shaped pan that serves no other use than to make Madeleines (Alton Brown would be mad).

I have to admit that the first time I made these, I used a Nigella Lawson recipe that included rose water. It was basically a massive, burned fail. Jesse declared that he “hated” Madeleines. Alas, I had this pan. So I had to make them again.

Jesse’s mom gave me a Williams-Sonoma cookbook on all baked goods. The pictures are beautifully styled and I’ve needed to crack it open. So I turned to these orange-scented Madeleines with vanilla and almond.

They turned out perfectly. Spongy cookie with that nice orange flavor mingling with the almond extract. I like the crunchy corners that were browned in the butter wash in the pan..


2 large eggs

1/3 c. sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp almond extract

1/2 c. flour, sifted

1 tsp orange zest

1/4 c. unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Powdered sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 375, put rack in middle. Brush the melted butter inside the 12 molds. Dust with flour and tap out excess.

In a large bowl, combine eggs, sugar, salt. Whisk until pale and thick, 5 min. Beat in vanilla and almond. Sprinkle in flour and stir to incorporate.

Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the orange zest and half the melted butter. Fold in remaining butter. You’ll hear the little air bubbles snapping in the dough.

Divide the cookies in the pan, about 1 T per shell. Bake until the center springs back when touched and they are lightly golden on edges, about 8-12 min.

Cool on wire rack.

Best when served warm, with a dusting of powdered sugar. I’m really into Earl Gray tea right now and these would match well. With a touch of cream and sugar.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Pear-almond cake with chocolate chunks

Almond Joy

At first I didn’t think I would like pear and chocolate together. It just sounded weird, somehow. But this cake is really tasty, especially when served cold. My only problem with the recipe is that the batter is thick and there isn’t much of it. I found it difficult to spread in two layers in my spring-form pan. Next time, I will put it all perhaps in one layer, with the pears on top. We’ll see. Also, you do not need a standing mixer for this.

You can find the recipe at RachaelRayMag.com. It is a basic cake batter layered with sliced pears, dark chocolate chunks and then drizzled with an almond glaze. Those almonds on top really pull it all together. I need to bake more with almonds. The pear is really moist and the chocolate adds a nice contrast. Plus, extra powdered sugar on top is always good.

The “rustic” cake is supposedly Roman in origin, so take that as you will. The result: a lovely cake for any occasion, with pears and chocolate and almonds. I’m a chocolate-pear convert!


Enjoy, friends! xoxo